The Government Accountability Office today released a report on the collection and analysis of anthrax samples, which revealed implementation issues. The anthrax attacks in 2001 highlighted the federal government's inadequate preparedness to respond to an intentional release. In 2005, the GAO found that the federal agencies did not use sampling methods that could be relied upon in knowing whether a building was safe from anthrax contamination after a low-level attack, such as the ones in 2001. The GAO recommended several actions regarding sampling so that there would be sufficient scientific basis for the government to determine that a building was safe after a low-level release of anthrax.
Today's GAO report acknowledges some progress has been made invalidating sampling methods, yet validation is not complete. A federal working group, led by the Department of Homeland Security and made of up the Centers for Disease Control, Environmental Protection Agency, FBI, and National Institute of Standards and Technology, has not yet reached consensus on the best way to validate anthrax sample collection methods.
"Eleven years and $12 million after the first anthrax attack, it is unimaginable that those agencies responsible for detecting the anthrax and protecting the public are still unable to coordinate their efforts and implement GAO's recommendations," said Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) and Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Cliff Stearns (R-FL). "We have invested considerable time and resources over the past seven years, and yet the working group has not completed the recommended implementation improvements because they have reached a stalemate on how to move forward. The committee does not take this issue lightly and will work together with the relevant agencies in order to reach a resolution. It is critical that we learn from the 2001 attacks to better protect the American people and ensure the taxpayers' investment is being used wisely."
"This report highlights that while progress has been made, more needs to be done to ensure that the appropriate federal agencies are coordinating on anthrax sampling," said Energy and Commerce Ranking Member Henry Waxman (D-CA.) "We must continue to remain vigilant to ensure that another anthrax attack doesn't happen. I hope these agencies can reach a consensus on how to move forward."